Last chance to enter The Hackaday Prize.

12 Hours of Hacking

arrow-down-rightIf you’re better working under a deadline you should be at your best RIGHT NOW. That timer is counting down the last 12 hours to enter The Hackaday Prize.

Hackerspace Tour: Syn Shop, Las Vegas

While we were at DEFCON, we had the chance to visit a few places in the area that are of interest to the Hackaday readership. We made it over to Syn Shop, the Las Vegas hackerspace.

Years ago, this area of town was home to the Greyhound bus depot, complete with all the adventures associated with that. Since then, Zappos set up their HQ nearby, massive amounts of money flowed in, and gentrification got a big thumbs up from the decaying casinos in the area. Syn Shop is just down the street from the Denny’s with a bar and the twelve story tall slot machine with a zip line, making this space perfect for the community outreach that is lacking in so many other hackerspaces. In the hour or so I was there, no fewer than two groups of people took a gander through the plate glass asking themselves if this was ‘one of those makerspaces or something’. It’s a far cry from hackerspaces found tucked away in business parks, and something that has worked well for the members of the shop.

[Andrew Bogerri] took me around the space, first showing off the PDP-11/23 which you can drive around with a remote control. Yes, it works. No, not Unix. Yes, the entire stack should weigh about 500 pounds, but the guts of the RL02 drives were replaced with something considerably more modern. Just think of it as a 200 pound remote control car, with the momentum that goes along with that.

Syn Shop has a huge space for classes, and the tutors to go along with it. Classes range from CAM design and CNC operation, to tutorials on how to use the huge ShopBot in the space. There’s also a craft night, plenty of help available for running the laser cutter, and enough electronics paraphernalia to work on anything in the sub-Gigahertz range.

Even though most of the Syn Shop members were away at the Rio getting geared up for the con when I went through, you could still tell the space is constantly buzzing with energy and spurious emissions. I caught up with a few of the other regular members at the Hardware Hacking village at the con, but that’s a subject for another post.

Pics below.

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Biometric Secured Golfcart Allows For Keyless Start

Fingerprint Secured Golf Cart

Who uses keys these days, really? Introducing the world’s first(?) biometric secured golf cart. Gives “push to start” a whole new meaning!

[Ramicaza] lives in a small community where many families (including his!) use golf carts to commute short distances, like to the grocery store, or school. Tired of sharing a key between his parents and siblings, [Ramicaza] decided to soup up his ride with a fingerprint sensor allowing for key less start.

He’s using an ATtiny85 and a GT511-C1 finger print sensor from SparkFun. After throwing together a circuit on a breadboard and testing the concept he went straight to a PCB prototype for install in the cart. What we really like is the case he integrated into the golf cart’s dash. It features a flip-up lid which turns the circuit on when it is opened, and off when it is closed to save battery. Scan your finger and a relay triggers the ignition allowing you to drive away.

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Speedy Drinkmaker Keeps Party Guests Hydrated

the rumbot

After five weekends of work, [Alex] completed his automatic drink maker, the RumBot. What makes this automated bartender different from others is the fact that it is fast. VERY fast. It can serve drinks to five different locations in as little as 3 seconds per drink. By [Alex]‘s estimation, this could keep a party of 100 people going without anyone waiting on a drink.

The RumBot can make either of five pre-programmed drinks at varying levels of alcoholic intensity, ranging from 1 (“Virgin”) to 10. And for that extra push over the cliff, you can turn the knob to 11 (“Problem”).

Drink selection itself is handled by a simple digital I/O on an Arduino with a 1950s-styled user interface. The frame is built out of wood and uses 3D Printed plastic parts. It houses a very robust servo on a belt screw-driven stage to move the drink nozzle, and special sensors placed at either of the five drink locations detect a cup ready to be filled. Any cup placed at any of the positions will automatically be filled based on the RumBot’s settings at any particular time.

Based on the quality of the build and the increased speed of this automatic drink maker, this should be a huge hit at any party. With all the knobs turned to 11 though, it might be a good idea to have a breathalyzer on hand! All of the code and schematics for the project are available at the project site as well.

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Ask Hackaday: Floating To Space

floating into space book cover

On a cool September morning just west of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, a group of MIT students launched a low-budget high altitude project that would go on to gain global attention. They revealed to the world that with a small weather balloon, a hacked camera, cheap GPS phone and a little luck, you could get pictures that rival those from the Space Shuttle. Their project set forth a torrent of hackers, students, kids and parents the world over trying to copy their success. Many succeeded. Others did not.

At 100,000 feet or about 20 miles up, it’s a brisk 60 degrees below zero. The atmosphere at this height is but a fraction of its density at sea level. Solar radiation rains down like a summer squall, and the view is just short of breathtaking. It seems so agonizingly close to space that you could just reach out and touch it. That one could almost float right on up into orbit.

Sound impossible? Think again. A little known volunteer based company operating out of California is trying to do just this.

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Lost PLA Casting With a Little Help From Your Microwave

lost-pla

[Julia and Mason] have been perfecting their microwave-based lost PLA casting technique over at Hackaday.io. As the name implies, lost PLA is similar to lost wax casting techniques. We’ve covered lost PLA before, but it always involved forges. [Julia and Mason] have moved the entire process over to a pair of microwaves.

Building on the work of the FOSScar project, the pair needed a way to burn the PLA out of a mold with a microwave. The trick is to use a susceptor. Susceptors convert the microwave’s RF energy into thermal energy exactly where it is needed. If you’ve ever nuked a hot pocket, the crisping sleeve is lined with susceptor material. After trying several materials, [Julia and Mason] settled on a mixture of silicon carbide, sugar, water, and alcohol for their susceptor.

The actual technique is pretty simple. A part printed in PLA is coated with susceptor. The part is then placed in a mold made of plaster of paris and perlite. The entire mold is cooked in an unmodified household microwave to burn out the PLA.

A second microwave with a top emitter is used to melt down aluminum, which is then poured into the prepared mold. When the metal cools, the mold is broken away to reveal a part ready to be machined.

We think this is a heck of a lot of work for a single part. Sometimes you really need a metal piece, though. Until metal 3D printing becomes cheap enough for everyone to do at home, this will work pretty well.

The ChipWhisperer At Defcon

We’ve seen [Colin]‘s entry to The Hackaday Prize before. After seeing his lightning talk at Defcon, we had to get an interview with him going over the intricacies of this very impressive piece of hardware.

The ChipWhisperer is a security and research platform for embedded devices that exploits the fact that all security measures must run on real hardware. If you glitch a clock when a microcontroller is processing an instruction, there’s a good probability something will go wrong. If you’re very good at what you do, you can simply route around the code that makes up the important bits of a security system. Power analysis is another trick up the ChipWhisperer’s sleeve, analyzing the power consumption of a microcontroller when it’s running a bit of code to glean a little information on the keys required to access the system. It’s black magic and dark arts, but it does work, and it’s a real threat to embedded security that hasn’t had an open source toolset before now.

Before our interview, [Colin] did a few short and sweet demos of the ChipWhisperer. They were extraordinarily simple demos; glitching the clock when a microcontroller was iterating through nested loops resulted in what can only be described as ‘counter weirdness’. More advanced applications of the ChipWhisperer can supposedly break perfectly implemented security, something we’re sure [Colin] is saving for a followup video.

You can check out [Colin]‘s 2-minute video for his Hackaday Prize entry below.

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